Friday, January 4

Top 20 Indie Retro Games on Nintendo Switch

Retro games are near and dear to my heart because they’re generally either remasters or reinventions of classic titles or even modern games with sensibilities and style that fit that time. For me they’re a sort of portal to the past and while generally this sort of title wouldn’t be a great mainstream-friendly option for major publishers they’re perfect for indie developers and publishers. The following is a list that will continue to grow over time though at some point I’ll probably begin to trim it back to keep it restricted only to those that are truly the best on the platform.

Horizon Chase Turbo - Oh, to go back to the arcades, hearing the sound of quarters being dispensed from the bill changer, and diving into some classic gaming fun. Horizon Chase Turbo is a love letter to arcade racing greats like OutRun (a personal favorite) but it delivers so much more than that. With its smart pick-ups on the tracks, some great hidden unlocked cars, and more content than I ever would have imagined it's not a nostalgia cash-in, it's a celebration of classic arcade racing that will have you entertained and challenged for many hours if you want to find it all. One of my Top 10 Indie Games of 2018, this is a retro racing gem!

The Messenger - Possibly one of the best retro console titles I've ever played, The Messenger actually feels like a collection of multiple terrific and challenging titles. Starting out as a more straight-up action platformer after many levels and challenging bosses you'll feel like you're done but then, BAM, the game expands into an epic and even more challenging Metroidvania. It blends classic sensibilities with outstanding level designs, a Shopkeeper who absolutely cracks me up throughout the game, and some of the most satisfying action I enjoyed in 2018.

Pinball FX3 - Since the base game hit the eShop last year, the periodic release of new table packs has kept this retro gaming engine very relevant ever since. In particular, the acquisition of the rights to produce tables based on the classic pinballs from Williams should make every retro gaming fan very happy. Already having released 2 packs from that agreement, as well as a few notable original packs of their own, Pinball FX3 will likely handily stay on yearly lists for quite some time.

Yoku's Island Express - Speaking of pinball retro love but with a twist, all I had to do was hear the words "pinball adventure" and my ears instantly perked up about this title. What could have been a pretty easy and by-the-numbers title thrown out to grab the attention of classic pinball fans like myself turned out to be so much more though. Yoku's Island Express is creative, quirky, challenging, and consistently surprising throughout its runtime, and put a smile on my face pretty much the entire time I played it. Throw in the fact that though it may not be terribly easy it's also extremely family-friendly and it's a title that absolutely feels at home on the Switch. One of my Top 10 Indie Games of 2018!

Miles & Kilo - While sharing quite a bit of DNA with last year's cute retro runner Kid Tripp, Miles & Kilo really refined and nailed things down to produce a satisfying experience worthy of inclusion on this list. Cute, challenging, and well-paced the alternating between the more traditional platforming when playing as Miles and the then it becoming a runner when Kilo is pulling him along keeps things fresh and fun throughout its relatively modest runtime.

Blossom Tales: The Sleeping King - Perhaps a little less gaining inspiration from the classic top-down Zelda titles like Link to the Past than copying it outright, Blossom Tales is an excellent game to help hold you over until the Virtual Console arrives. Cleverly playing out as a grandfather tells his granddaughters a story about a brave hero, Lilly, the focus is on taking most of the classic Zelda weaponry and then adding some more unique items of its own if you're willing to search them out. Thoroughly satisfying for the price of admission, Blossom Tales plays like a "lost" Nintendo title.

Dragon’s Lair Trilogy - Dirk the Daring and Dexter are back, and bringing their reference-quality classic arcade laserdisc gameplay to the Switch. While not everyone may be a fan of the somewhat stilted play that results from the way these games worked there’s no denying that the ability to virtually play a feature-quality cartoon was pretty cool. Both Dragon’s Lair and its sequel as well as the very different Space Ace are represented in all of their glory and even lacking the trademark pauses you used to experience as the next clip was loading.

SNK 40th Anniversary Collection - If you're a big fan of classic arcade games you've probably heard of or even get nostalgic for a fair number of games featured in this collection. From the iconic shooters in the Ikari Warriors series to unique titles like Athena and Vanguard vintage arcade gaming is well-represented. On the classic console side the inclusion of Crystalis should excite as well. Wrap that all up with a chronology of press materials and facts about the company and its games over the years and it's a package retro lovers should appreciate.

Hyper Sentinel - With the heart of a game pulled from the 80s but production values and visual enhancements that help give it modern flair Hyper Sentinel is a load of fun. Inspired quite a bit by the classic shooter Uridium you'll be attacking a large ship and trying to take it down while fighting off it's defenses, working to rack up combos and maximize your score.

Iron Crypticle - Who said you couldn’t have a great time with a budget retro arcade shooter? Iron Crypticle has a smart but classic arcade style of play that will challenge you solo, or you can join up with 3 friends as well. Working your way through a map in the main mode you’ll be able to work your way into special rooms that offer greater risks as well as rewards. The action is all about keeping your multiplier up, which means you’ll be rushing to pick up items that are dropped by enemies to maximize your score. Throw in online leaderboards and it offers up some great shooting action for its very reasonable price.

The Adventures of Elena Temple - Retro games can be really challenging to get "just right", somehow toeing the line between being true to vintage gameplay and being trapped by it. With platforming action that took me back to my Atari 5200 and Commodore 64 days Elena Temple managed to be a nostalgic rush but also, aside from its pixel graphics looks, managed to feel at home as a modern game as well. With a bite-sized length to match its budget price this is a game any retro fan should thoroughly enjoy.

Pang Adventures - Doing a remake or remaster for a classic game can be a tough task. Fail to respect the original sufficiently and the purists will begin squawking loudly. Fail to innovate and you’ll get hit by another camp. Being successful means finding a balance of the needs of both sides and Pang Adventures does this admirably. There’s no mistaking this is all about popping bubbles classic Pang style but whether solo or with a friend there’s enough new stuff here to keep retro gaming fans happy and challenged for a little bit.

Debris Infinity - I absolutely love me some classic arcade shooting action and Debris Infinity was one of my go-to titles for providing that fix this year on Switch. While, at a glance, people may be tempted to write it off as a clone of Geometry Wars based on its visual presentation, in terms of gameplay it absolutely has a style all its own. Throw in a few different modes that each feel distinctive and challenging and shooting fans have a gem of a budget arcade title with this one.

R-Type Dimensions EX - Anyone who ever loved arcade-style shooters has heard the name R-Type and for fans the mention of it will give chills. That’s for good reason as it and Gradius owned the side-scrolling shooting space for years. This package will let you enjoy the original and its sequel both in a variety of retro true ways as well as with a great modern 3D look that’s polished and fabulous. Perhaps best of all you’ll be able to pump an unlimited number of continues into it without going broke, no matter how hard you remember it being as it got on in levels you probably don’t remember just how hard.

Horizon Shift '81 - While this retro arcade shooter absolutely looks, and in many ways feels, like a title from the good old days of the arcades it’s a very modern amalgam of multiple games blended to make a crazy and challenging experience. Grab upgrades, jump over enemies, dash to either side to plow through enemies that have landed on the ground, and much more as you go through phase after phase of new challenges. Borrowing styles and enemy types from multiple games this is a retro roller coaster and the tweaks you can make to its speed and challenge are a welcome modern touch that very much make it worth checking out.

Cursed Castilla EX - With a general look and feel quite reminiscent of the classic Ghouls N’ Ghosts, Cursed Castilla EX is full of personality, challenging play, and some great retro beats. Thankfully it also has its own distinct sense of style and, though somewhat punishing, won’t make you start all over again once you lose all of your lives. A great bite of retro goodness with some modern sensibilities.

Raging Justice - If you're a massive fan of the classic beat-em-ups of the 80s there may not be a game that's more of a love letter to those titles than Raging Justice. Full of winks and nods to titles like Final Fight, Streets of Rage, Pit Fighter, and more this combo-focused brawler will have you trying to reclaim the streets using one of 3 characters that each have their own unique strengths and play styles.

Strikey Sisters - Throwing together the classic retro Breakout formula and some great pixel art characters, instead of controlling a bar to keep the ball in play in Strikey Sisters you’ll instead slash at it with your sword. With your character controlling such a small horizontal space this can be pretty challenging but you’ll get some aid in the form of some pretty effective power-ups. If you’ve been jonesing for some Arkanoid-esque Switch action this will deliver.

Fox N Forests - A platforming adventure with the heart of a classic SNES-era title Fox N Forests is a smart retro title that looks and plays great. To go with that terrific art it offers some wild variant levels, multiple upgrades, a smart season-changing mechanic that will have you doing some minor puzzle solving, and tough bosses. If you’re looking for a game experience to take you back to simpler times on the SNES or Genesis Fox N Forests will absolutely take you there.

Chiki-Chiki Boxy Racers - Anyone who had a NES back in the day should probably remember RC Pro-Am and the great racing it offered up. While not completely the same by any means Chiki-Chiki Boxy Racers is probably the only game I've played since those days to give me that vibe. While it likely won't take you long to get through all of its circuits and the Party modes are cute but not terribly deep the somewhat unusual control style it uses works like a charm and it can be fun to unlock new vehicles while it lasts.

This list will continue to grow and be pruned as time goes on, as well as numerous other lists that try to keep track of all of the best titles the Nintendo Switch has to offer in the Indie space!